Frew in 1999: The Year in Review

13 March 1999 was the day that marked the end of an era for The Phantom. At the ripe old age of 87 years, Lee Falk's great heart struck it's last beat -- 63 years after he created The Ghost Who Walks. Lee had lived to see his greatest creation finally take form in a major motion picture, two Phantom publishers each produce over 1000 editions in their respective country (Frew and Semic/Egmont), and one of those publishers celebrate their 50th anniversary. The great man is dead, but his dreams and ideals live on in The Phantom ... thanks in no small part to the continuing efforts of all at Frew Publications in Australia.

Frew published 31 editions of The Phantom in 1999, with a total count of 1844 pages. The net cover price for all of the 1999 issues was $82.50, which is about 5% higher than the previous year. This was caused by a small increase in the price of the standard 36 page issue from $1.50 to $1.75, commencing with #1222 on 26 February. Incredibly, Frew had managed to keep their pricing structure unchanged for almost 12 years -- the first $1.50 issue was #887 in August 1987. This must surely represent another publishing record! Even with this modest price hike, the average price per page still remains below 1987-90 levels. Frew's The Phantom is still the lowest priced comic book on the Australian market. Unfortunately, the price for all Australian comics will increase by 10% when the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is introduced on 1 July 2000. You can thank Little Johnny Howard and the Judas Democrats for this bimillennium gift! A detailed breakdown of the size, price and number of issues published in 1999 is shown below, in comparison with the last four years.

Number of Issues
# PagesPrice19951996199719981999
36$1.75    20
76$3.00    1
164$6.50 1   
Annual$10.00 316pp
+ #4 replica
+ #5 replica
+ #6 replica
+ #7 replica
+ #8 replica
Other$10.00   50th Anniv.
Special 212pp
+ 44pp Index
TOTAL31 issues
1812 pages
31 issues
1868 pages
31 issues
1868 pages
31 issues
1928 pages
31 issues
1844 pages

There were a total of 61 stories this year (including the replica edition). As usual, the Lee Falk classics deserve first mention. Of the 61 stories, 27 were reconstructed Lee Falk classics (see table below) -- the majority dating from the 1950s. Phans of the Wilson McCoy era were certainly kept happy this year! Frew also presented us with the last 5 stories from the master, two of these being co-written by his widow, Elizabeth. Combining these with the edited version of The Sky Band in the #8 replica edition (included with the Annual Special #1219), brings the total number of Lee Falk stories in 1999 to 33, spread out over 10 issues. Hence Lee Falk's stories represented 54% of the total number of stories published -- a significant improvement on last year.

Lee Falk stories reconstructed by Frew in 1999
YearCodeStory TitleArtistIssue #
1949/50D36The ThuggeesMcCoy1234
1950S25The Ape Idol of the DuruguMcCoy1248
1952S31The 'Copter PiratesMcCoy1248
1952S32The Female PhantomMcCoy1219
1953/54D51The Super ApesMcCoy1219
1954S37The BeltMcCoy1219
1954D54The Wrestling TourneyMcCoy1219
1954/55S39Alexander's CupMcCoy1219
1955S41The Crescent CultMcCoy1234
1955S42The Horned Star DemonsMcCoy1226
1955/56D59Queen Sansamor and the Sixth ManMcCoy1244
1956D62The Grove of the Sleeping GiantMcCoy1244
1957S48A Lesson for Prince OrqMcCoy1219
1957S49The FrameupMcCoy1234
1960D77The Monkey MailMcCoy1230
1968S73The Little OnesBarry1219
1971S84The WigBarry1248
1976/77D132Return of the TerroristsBarry1227
1976/77S101The Swamp DragonBarry1219
1977S102The HuntersBarry1248
1978S106Hzz and HrzBarry1223
1978D139Jungle CityBarry1230
1980S112The Uninvited VisitorsBarry1219
1982D149Tale of RexBarry1219
1982/83S117The Missing Link FamilyBarry1219
1983/84S119The Eastern DarkBarry1226
1986D159Ruler of BaronkhanBarry1228
1998/99D193The Dakk PiratesOlesen/Williams1223
1998/99S149The Floradon MysteryOlesen/Fredericks1226
1999D194The AlbeeOlesen/Williams1230
1999D195Terror at the OperaOlesen/Williams1239
1999S150The KidnappersOlesen/Fredericks1239

During 1999, Frew printed 27 new stories originally published by Egmont, Scandinavia. There was only one multi-part story, and it came from a story written by Claes Reimerthi and illustrated by Romano Felmang, entitled The Last Phantom (2 parts, #1218 and #1220). All of Egmont's new feature stories from issue Nr.24/1998 through to Nr.26/1999 were reproduced in Frew's Phantom comic. Claes Reimerthi was by far the most prolific of the Egmont writers with 13 of his stories being printed. It is clear that Egmont recognise their reliance on Reimerthi, as two new writers have been trialed this year -- Ben Raab and Terrence Longstreet. It remains to be seen whether Egmont will keep them on or pursue other candidates. The task of illustration is more strongly supported by a group of highly experienced Phantom artists; so much so that the least experienced -- Joan Boix -- can already be considered a veteran of 4 years! A summary of the statistics for all Egmont writers and artists is shown below.

Writers Artists
Claes Reimerthi 13    Romano Felmang 6
Tony de Paul 5    Joan Boix 6
Norman Worker 2    César Spadari 6
Terrence Longstreet 2    Hans Lindahl 3
Ben Raab 2    Carlos Cruz 3
Scott Goodall 1    Heiner Bade 3
Hans Lindahl 1     
Jens Hansgård /
Kim McLaughlin

Last but not least ... the covers. As was the case in 1998, Jim Shepherd was the most prolific Frew cover artist this year with a tally of 12, closely followed by Glenn Ford with 10. Other art credits for the covers were as follows: Antonio Lemos (5), "Tessa" (3), and the Christmas Special issue cover constructed from Ray Moore daily strip art. Without doubt, my vote for the best cover of the year goes to Antonio Lemos for his wonderful effort on #1242 (see below), which rivalled his beautiful painted covers of 1997.

Cover Artists
Jim Shepherd 12
Glenn Ford 10
Antonio Lemos 5
"Tessa" 3
Ray Moore 1

More Frew stuff ...

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Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 3 February 2000